My New Workout Buddy is LOLO Jones

At first, I didn’t think much of the e-mail from the manager of my Orange Theory Fitness in Chelsea inviting me to a special workout session with Lolo Jones. I’d heard the name, but didn’t realize her supernova-star power. Not only is she an Olympian, holding world records in track and field (along with competitive bobsledding on the side), she is an Amazonian bombshell, and the new spokesperson for OTF.

When I arrived for my workout, there she was in the locker room with an entourage of hair and make-up. There was a lot of commotion, and as I tip-toed to put my things in a locker she graciously apologized for taking up all the space. Her smile and demeanor were completely down-to-earth, and in that instant I really felt as though she could be my workout buddy.

Here she is on the treadmill, and as my name starts with K, it was right next to hers on the scoreboard.

 

Untitled documentIn my resolution to save more money this year, I’d been planning on giving my one-month notice to cancel my membership after the workout. But, after I’d pushed myself to higher levels of speed and push-up-to-row reps than ever before (if only there was an Olympic athlete in the room for every workout), I couldn’t quite get the words, “I quit,” to come out of my mouth. SO, now I still have my OTF membership, and a FitReserve membership.

So far, Orange Theory really is still the best workout I’ve ever had. I will continue to search for one that comes close throughout the month and report on my findings. Heading over to Exceed Physical Culture right now.

And until then, I have Lolo (or at least the treadmill that she ran on)!

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Not HIIT with Best Shot at KORE Method

When I heard there was a swank new HIIT studio (with chilled, eucalyptus-infused towels!) in the trendiest of hoods,  I booked a session on FitReserve and headed to Kore on West 13th Street.

I was primed for intensity, hopeful for a dark, clubby vibe with killer tunes. The room was dark. It was also spartan, the only equipment being TRX straps, kettle balls, and bands. They boast a 5 step-format HIIT workout (high-intensity interval training) that targets strength and cardio without the treadmill. After some active stretching, the highlight of the workout is the 8-minute series of high-rep body weight strength and stability movements.

While the trainer was knowledgable and encouraging, and the method mixes up such a variety of movements that I was never bored, the intensity was not much higher than a shetland pony, and the music was less than memorable.

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That said, I did break a sweat and was challenged by the kick-ups (in which several classmates made it to hand stand). Many of the moves were original and creative– not just a bunch of burpees, which I liked. It was kind of like boot-camp meets pilates with some kettle-balls and TRX thrown in. While I won’t be putting them on my regular workout rotation, it was an above-average workout.

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And sure, there were the fancy skin care products, and the chilled eucalyptus towels, but there was only one bathroom. The lobby was cramped enough to bump into 6 people while trying to remove my coat. I opted not to try out the showers to avoid the closet-like “locker” room.

The short story:

Kore New York

Meatpacking District, 336 W 13th St, New York, NY 10014

Pros: Interesting workout with great instructors. Small group format. Chilled eucalyptus towels and free lockers. Dark room, loud music. Some challenging and origianl moves.

Cons: Not as high-intensity as they claim. Trying to be too cool. Teeny-tiny lobby and even smaller locker room/bathroom.

 

 

Buffer Than Barry

For my first class hop of 2016, I decided to head back to my former love, and what I considered the gold standard in high-intensity, total body workout: Barry’s Bootcamp. (See previous posts, here and here.)

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What I learned: I am waaaaay more fit, than the first time I tried it, thanks to my Orange Theory Fitness superpowers.

When the coach called out that I should be at 6, 7, or 8 (as in MPH), the lower speeds were a breeze, whereas last year I couldn’t even get to them. I could also handle heavier weights!

I kind of love the anonymity and dance club feel of the darkly-lit room at Barry’s, but don’t feel nearly the level of personal attention to form nor the encouragement that I got from Orange Theory coaches. Instead, the coaches, staff, and clientele are uber-hip. And you get to pamper yourself with MALIN+GOETZ skin and hair care products in the locker room. (This was really my only complaint at Orange Theory– while they have superior fitness classes and provide hair ties and a blow dryer, they are skimpy on the skin care products: no free deodorant and the towels are scratchy.)

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After OTF pushing me to higher run speeds based on the increased efficiency of my heart rate, I now know that I won’t fall off Barry’s treadmill if I hit 8 or sometimes even 9 MPH. And another thing I didn’t miss at OTF – the rower. I know, I know, rowing is sooooo good for you. But I’ve got calloused palms, and my heart rate never gets as high on the rower as on the treadmill. Might be time for me to venture to the Mile High Run Club and see how I stack up there. . .

Hopping Back to FitReserve

First off, I want to apologize for the long hiatus. I haven’t posted in a while or replied to comments as I was dealing with some health issues (more on that in a later post), but now, I’m back!

For the last 9 months I’ve been semi-exclusive with Orange Theory Fitness (occasionally visiting FlyWheel and Yoga to the People on the side). I LOVE OTF! But alas, monogamy fitness is not my cup of tea. The body craves variety. Orange Theory does mix it up between the treadmill, rowing machine, TRX, and weight work focusing alternately on endurance, strength, and power depending on the day. And I feel a bit guilty leaving them as they have taken me to a much higher level of fitness than I was achieving in my ClassPass days. I can run faster, and uphill. I feel stronger and have more definition in my legs, arms and abs. I love the intensity and efficiency of their heart-rate monitored, total body fitness classes. The coaches (especially Eddie!) are excellent– really watching your form and encouraging progress. Plus, there’s one in my hometown, so I can travel and still go to my own gym. I can safely say, that in all my class hopping thus far, OTF takes the cake (as in the cake I ate off of my butt).

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But it ain’t cheap. In NYC, a monthly membership for unlimited classes cost me $329 a month. I have NEVER paid that much for a gym before. Then, I thought, I’ll do it for one month, at least 4 times a week to get in shape for summer. I got hooked. I could no longer push myself without the coaches and the meticulously-planned full-body focus. I justified the expenditure because it was my health, and figured I’d cut back on eating out and clothes. I also found out that I could get $200 back from my health insurance with proof that I’d attended the gym at least 50 times in a 6-month period. But $329 a month is a big chunk of change, no matter how you cut it. I dropped down to the 8-times-per-month membership for $219 a month.

But now, It’s time to face the fact that I need to save a little money. That, and I’ve got to see how my new fit-self does back at Barry’s Bootcamp (now on the FitReserve roster!). With a wandering eye and a hankering to try some kinkier, wilder fitness forays in 2016 (like aerial fabric pole dancing and Thai Kickboxing, I’m putting my OTF membership on hold, and taking FitReserve for another spin.

I’m choosing FitReserve over ClassPass for now as the price of ClassPass has gone up (to $125 from $99 per month), and I’m haunted by nightmares of setting calendar alarms for the booking windows of my favorite classes, scrolling through endless choices, the choicest of which were always un-bookable on ClassPass.

But whether you’re using FitReserve, ClassPass, or just class-hopping on your own, this classhopper is happy to be sharing her adventures with you once again. I plan to try new classes, return to old faves, and hopefully catch up on some requests, like finding out which classes have the most guys in attendance.

Happy 2016 and Happy Hopping!

Learning from the Heart at OrangeTheory Fitness

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I did not want to like OrangeTheory Fitness. On a brief visit home to Tallahassee where my ClassPass membership is meaningless, I decided to give it a try for the sake of the blog. The reason I didn’t want to like it is that it’s a chain, a nationwide franchise, and in Tallahassee they’re located right across the street from one of my favorite locally-owned studios, Sweat Therapy.

But my body hasn’t felt this way in a while. Totally spent. Like I really pushed myself to places I didn’t think I could go. The set up is a lot like Barry’s Bootcamp, but they also have rowing machines, and the most important feature, you wear a hear rate monitor. I’ve seen these at BFX, and even wore one at Drill Fitness, but this was the first time I was sold on their true value.

In the past, at Barry’s I’ve been hesitant to try the big numbers the teacher calls out, convinced that my body can’t handle them and I might go flying off the machine. I’m a max-out-at-6.0mph kinda girl. Or I used to be. Tomorrow will be day 50 of my 100 days, and despite my body shape (or at least my body image) not changing a whole lot, I’m definitley MUCH more fit than when I started. Feeling strong is the best high. Wearing the heart rate monitor today helped me realize how strong I am.

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At OrangeTheory Fitness (soon to open a Chelsea studio in NYC), like at Barry’s, you move from intervals on the treadmill to strength training floor work. Unlike at Barry’s, the workouts are a little more varied (sometimes you’ll only be on the treadmill for 5-minute stints, and other times for longer). Also, your name is on the big screen with a bunch of numbers, the most prominent of which is your heart rate. It’s highlighted in a color that corresponds to your ideal and maximum heart rates (which are calculated based on your gender, age, and weight). I can’t remember the exact breakdowns they tell you are ideal, and I liked the fact that the teacher told us to just ignore them if they were distracting us. The idea is to be in the Green zone (fat-burning) for part of the time and in the Orange zone (84% or higher of your max heart rate) for part of the time. According to the people at OrangeTheory, by getting that time in the Orange zone you will experience Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption or EPOC. This means you’ll have an increased metabolic rate even after you stop working out.

I’m looking forward to that, and can actually feel it. Even more importantly though, looking at my heart rate numbers taught me more about myself. I actually had to go a lot faster than I thought I could to get to the orange zone, like 8.0-8.2 without an incline. I also learned that inclines are the killers for me. I had to slow way down when the incline was 5.0 or higher. Plus, I saw that I had a pretty quick recovery rate and my starting heart rate was pretty low which means I’m fit!

This kind of workout also means you CANNOT CHEAT or fake it! Which I’m often tempted to do in spinning class. Sigh. It means that even as I get fit, I can keep my workout challenging by pushing myself to the zone every time. So, as much as I hate the idea of a franchise beating out the local guy, this was a fantastic workout. Now, let’s see if they’ll be on ClassPass once they open in NYC!

ORANGETHEORY FITNESS (nationwide locations)

PROS:

Heart rate tracked by monitors shown on a video screen; progress tracked and sent to you via e-mail; clean space; efficient total-body workout; great instructors and class sizes small enough for them to help you with your form.

CONS: 

Not as many amemities as at some studios I’ve seen– the location I went to had limited locker/cubby space and only two showers; pricey.

Amped Up Asanas at NY Loves Yoga

I wanted to title this post, “Yoga on Crack,” but decided that was too harsh for a class that included harmonium chanting and essential oil annointing. Take note: the Chakra Flowtastic class at NY Loves Yoga is NOT for beginners. It’s a warm, inviting studio and the teacher, Christine Chen, from California made it her mission to get us warm on one of the coldest days of the year.

a95b5fe863019bbb532ed015eabf014dI’d never done a 3-legged chaturanga before, but by mid-class we were moving through it as a part of some of the most vigorous vinyasas I’ve ever seen. And Christine started out so California-mellow chanting beautifully as she played the harmonium. Don’t let her fool you, she’s actually a Yoga Lady Jaye who could easily swing a side job as an auctioneer since she can call out Yoga poses faster than I can think them. (And she writes books in her spare time.)

It made for a sweat-filled, cardio-style class that would have been a “lyrical dance-like flow” as the class-description reads if I were more  graceful. As it was, I flopped out of a few twists and skipped a few chaturangas to meet everyone in downward dog. But I loved the fast pace because it kept my mind from wandering and had me trying things out before I could think about them too hard. I also enjoyed the chanting much more than I though I would. It was surprisingly, genuinely heart-warming which was much needed in 7 degree weather.

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NY Loves Yoga (140 West 83rd Street between Columbus & Amsterdam)

PROS:

Beautifully designed, cozy space and a true community vibe; friendly staff and yogis; experienced, well-trained teachers; a variety of classes offered from beginner to advanced; mat and towel rental available; cubbies for shoes.

CONS:

No showers and limited space for changing

A Hidden Gem: As One Fitness

This crazy contraption, the Jacobs Ladder, was only one of many new and intense moves that George from As One Fitness (located at Columbus Circljacob's laddere) introduced me to.

On one of the best websites I’ve seen for a studio, As One claims they offer the city’s toughest workout. I can’t quite vouch for that yet, as I’ve only tried the 30 minute workout. It was super efficient non-stop cardio and strength training in a compact, but clean and well designed space. After just those 30 minutes, I can imagine their 90-minute “Grind” classes might just be the city’s toughest. (Although I’m sure some Barry’s Buffs might disagree, and I wouldn’t want Barry to know I was cheating.)

Another thing I loved was that they took the time to stretch using foam rollers after the class which a lot of intense, cross-fit/bootcamp style classes don’t seem to do.

Here’s the skinny (which I’m sure you’d become as a regular here):

AS ONE FITNESS (Located on the 3rd floor of a nondescript building at Columbus Circle)

PROS:

Small group classes in a clean, compact space with out of the ordinary equipment; they offer 30, 60 and 90-minute workout options; amazing trainers who pay attention to your form as you do rows with sandbags, burpees, and jump squats to name a few; the kind of place where you can make goals and they will help keep you on track to meet them.

CONS:

You can’t get away with anything because it’s small and personal; limited space for changing, and there are bathrooms with showers but don’t expect Bliss Spa products, just the basics (there is a water cooler and they do have towels); a little pricier than some classes at $40 for a single session, but they offer the first class free and the first month unlimited for $99.

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Murray Hill’s Studio 360

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Ventured all the way to Murray Hill to hit another cycling studio, Studio 360. The quick summary is that if I lived nearby, I’d probably go back, but it’s not worth traveling for. I signed up for their Signature Series class which they say is 40 minutes of cycling and 20 minutes of Yoga. I got there just in time, only to find out that you don’t automatically get to do the Yoga part. There’s not enough space in the Yoga studio to accommodate all the riders. I was put on the wait list, and luckily I was the last person admitted.

360 yogaRather than a long rant, I’ll just get straight to it.

PROS: Good, accurate metrics (you can input your gender, age, and weight for more accurate calorie burn count) and a light on every bike so you can see the readout; a teacher that seemed to really know what she was doing; if you put in your own effort, it was a great burn; decent music; lockers with locks and cycling shoes provided.

CONS: The mic was broken so the teacher had to shout at us off her bike; the whole ride was in the seat (unless you chose to stand) and that can get boring, not to mention uncomfortable since the bikes were by far the least comfortable I’ve experienced; no showers, dry shampoo, or deodorant so don’t plan on going anywhere but home right after your workout; have to get there early if you want in on the Yoga part of the Signature Series.

WHAT TO WEAR: Cycling pants, and any kind of shoes because cycling shoes are provided.

One little rant: I take issue with the fact that their website says they are the only studio in Manhattan dedicated exclusively to Cycling and Yoga, because Monster Cycle also offers Cycling and Yoga exclusively, unless you count that Monster Cycle has an awesome juice bar and Studio 360 does not.

Day 21: Bollywood Boogie with Booya Fitness

The blizzard was a bust, and with my son home from school on a snow day I thought maybe I could call it a snow day from my 100 days of classes too. Then, my conscious got the best of me when I saw that Booya Fitness was offering a Blizzard of 2015 promo code on their Facebook page. Booya Fitness promises boutique workouts without the crowd. That’s because you’re at home watching videos of the classes. They charge $10 a month or $100 a year which seems reasonable, but I’ve only committed to my free first month so far.

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After registering, I clicked on the box that said “Dance (Ethnic),” because are people seriously using the word ethnic to describe things other than what they’re used to? I had a friend in college from Kentucky who called pizza and tacos “ethnic food.” Is Zumba “ethnic?” Yoga?

(FYI, the founder of Booya Fitness is Harvard Business grad Prita Kumar, also not a name I’d feel comfortable describing as ethnic.) Turns out this “Dance (Ethnic)” workout was a 30-minute video of the Bolly X workout which is also a studio class offered on ClassPass. It’s a lot like Zumba, Bollywood style. I’ve enjoyed Zumba workouts in the past, but usually feel like the girl in the back with two left feet. So this Booya Fitness chance to practice Bollywood dancing in the privacy of my own home was especially appealing. The only problem is, I live in NYC and my neighbors can see directly into my apartment, so I had an audience anyway.

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It was a fun way to sneak in a quick workout, and maybe after I practice 3 or 4 or 10 times, I’ll be able to stand at the front of the Bolly X line-up. In the meantime, I’ll keep dancing for my neighbors.

It would have been a decent workout too, a little on the easier side (I’m not one to complain), but I walked away from the video several times to get water or check my e-mail. I didn’t hit pause. Yes, I could have paused it. But, I didn’t. That’s why I go to in-person classes: lack of willpower without the mandate to save face. On-line college classes are the same. I’ll take a C in an on-line class, no sweat. Have a professor look me in the eye though, and I’m the one sitting in front, batting my eyelashes, and turning in all the extra credit.

PROS: Don’t have to leave your house; good filtering options; fun workout

CONS: No teacher feedback or personal attention; workout was on the easy side

If you have a friend who’ll come over and do it with you, or if you are that motivated, Booya Fitness offers more than “Dance (Ethnic).” They also have Yoga (with Zander Gladish), Pilates, HIIT, bootcamps, and circuit training to name a few, and you can filter workouts by your energy level, your goal, or the equipment you have available. It certainly comes in handy on snow days. Here’s a shout out to my NYC friends: if someone wants to come over and help me give it another shot, you can pick the class.

Or for those of you who are a little more adventurous, I’d also like to try this new Reggae/Dancehall fitness class: Brukwine.

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Confessions of a Class Skipper Part 2: Down the Rabbit Hole

An update on the class skipping situation:

As I mentioned in my first Class Skipping post, I’ve missed some ClassPass classes, and I’ve lied about it. When you log back into ClassPass after a scheduled class, a window pops up asking you to rate the class out of 5 starts or click that you missed the class. After lying twice to avoid the $20 penalty fee, I finally fessed up and clicked on the “I missed class” button just to see what would happen.

At first, nothing, but last night I got an e-mail from ClassPass that said:

Hi Karla,

According to our records, you missed the following class:

FlowCycle at FlowCycle on 01/08/2015 at 9:15 AM

This missed class is subject to a $20 late cancel fee.

As a reminder, all reservations must be canceled at least 24 hours before the class time. Reservations may be canceled directly in your ClassPass account or by emailing info@classpass.com.

We appreciate your help in canceling all future reservations before the 24 hour cut off. Doing so makes our class providers happy and gives fellow ClassPass users a chance to book the spot!

Thanks.
The ClassPass Team

p.s. We know that technology is not always perfect! If you did attend this class, please email us back to let us know and we will follow up with FlowCycle.

So I got my first $20 penalty. Now it’s up to me and my conscience as to how to deal with any future slip-ups.

Today, I missed another class, but this time I really did try to go. I genuinely couldn’t find it. Instead I found myself down the rabbit hole in one of those where-the-hell-am-I-? moments that NYC likes to throw at you every so often. These moments always seem to include a receptionist or bouncer that serves as a portal protector between you and the secret world you are entering. I was at Stepping Out Studios (“home to world champions, celebrities and you”) in search of a class called BoCo Power 45. This particular receptionist had a thick Russian accent. With a vague nod of her head, she said something about Studio C. I didn’t see any sign marked Studio C, so I went to the bathroom (located inside a studio in which several leotard-clad cabaret dancers were shimmying all over, under, and around their chairs). After changing, and watching a class of clearly professional level dancers plié en masse wearing only lacy bras and black pantyhose in the only other studio I saw, I tried again to ask where Studio C was.

“Tru dere. Second door to da right.”

Hmmm, back through the chair-dancing room, I found another door. Inside this one were heavily made-up women and men in suit vests rehearsing the tango next to a grand piano. That didn’t seem quite right either. Just before they stopped to stare at me, I slipped out and chickened out, finding my way back to the elevator.

Body Conceptions is a method founded by Mahri Relin, a former modern dancer and theater performer who was the Creative Director of FlyWheel’s Fly Barre. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect of the class because the description was vague: “Body Conceptions is a full-body lengthening and sculpting method that combines the principles of dynamic movement and muscle exhaustion.” I imagined a bit of dancing though considering the founder and that it’s located in a dance studio. I thought it would be a nice compliment to the EVF 360 class that I went back to yesterday (and was happy to have Farouk again as my trainer there!).

I promise to go back to BoCo and try again, but for today, I’m taking an on-line meditation class through Headspace instead. Hopefully that will help me work up the courage to open up more mysterious dance studio doors.